Parenting is the toughest job in the world. Demands and time constraints are constant and there is usually very little ‘down time’ to recharge yourself. It’s no surprise that stress and tensions build up quickly. It could be a child’s poor sleeping habits causing parental fatigue, or the constant round of after school and weekend responsibilities. In the meantime, all the usual housework needs to get done…
Rather than just boosting our caffeine intake to try and stay on top of things, many parents are now turning to using mindfulness and meditation to help manage their stress, sleep better and create an overall calmer environment at home.
Let me be clear that this process does not require you to have the dedication of a Buddhist monk! It’s about using mindfulness techniques in an everyday context to bring a sense of calm to your home life and help you to manage situations more effectively. This could be something as simple as making sure that your full attention can be on your children when you are together after school.
There are plenty of opportunities for using mindfulness throughout your daily routine. For example, I have never enjoyed preparing dinner. It’s just another routine chore… But now I very deliberately engage in the process in a mindful way. I’m not thinking about how much I hate it, or letting my mind wander elsewhere. I focus on the sound of the knife on the board as I’m cutting up the vegetables.
There can be many beautiful moments of mindfulness in everyday activities that help you to slow down and change your perspective.
Role-modeling for Children
The additional benefit of practicing mindfulness this way is that it can become a form of role modeling for children. Something as simple as pausing, taking 3 or 4 deep breaths as a calming exercise will ease the stress of the daily routine. Mindfulness practiced in the evenings can also help to quiet all the frantic thoughts that build up during a busy day so that you can be ready for a more restful sleep.
Parents know that children are always taking in and processing what is happening at home (from an emotional perspective). Just doing some small mindfulness activities during the day will encourage children to mimic this behavior so that they can be happier and calmer.
Never underestimate the subtle influence you can exert. When we prioritize taking care of ourselves, we are also showing our children that we matter.
Creating a Calmer Home
As life feels like its speeding up it becomes even more important to maintain a sense of being grounded. With so much information and stimuli coming from every direction; its easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed. Staying grounded is even more important when you have very young children. We need to stop trying to do too much. Stop and make time for mindfulness… Mindfulness brings us back to this moment, into what is really happening. This makes our relationships and the language we choose to use more calm and happy.
We are all Imperfect Parents
When you become a parent it’s almost feels like your responsibilities start to multiply. You are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your children, but you must also be very aware of your own limits. As much as you may want to control everything… you cant. The point where the need to control meets reality is where you start to experience anxiety. Stuff happens; things get broken and spilt… Its part of life.
In these situations, don’t start to blame yourself (or others). When appropriate, practice letting go, and relax into the imperfection. You need these moments to give yourself a break and let life unfold.
If you find yourself repeatedly responding in anger with your child, or arguing emotionally, this is like letting our immature side take control. It never leads to a positive resolution. As the old saying goes: “Be the parent that you needed when you were growing up”. Mindfulness helps you to deal with conflict in a more thoughtful and appropriate way.
The importance of all this cannot be understated. The way you as a parent communicate with your child determines how they experience themselves in that very moment. The culmination of these experiences over the years will reflect on how they see themselves throughout their lives.
We have all had the experience of thinking to ourselves “I probably should not have said that..!” But it’s too late. The words are out there. You are not a bad parent for losing your patience. With mindfulness, you can give yourself that critical second or two to pause and decide how you are going to respond…. Instead of just reacting. Seeing and feeling the emotion welling up inside you, helps to prevent the situation form escalating. You will also have a better chance of staying composed and dealing with the challenge in a positive and constructive way.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on mindful parenting. There are also other articles on this site covering mindfulness techniques.